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By: Imvusa Technologies  11-11-2011
Keywords: Wine, Glass, Preservation System


Editorial that appeared in Hotel & Restaurant • October 2005 • Issue 47
Reproduced with kind permission.

A new wine preservation system has been attracting a lot of attention from hoteliers and restaurateurs in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Andrew Starke discovers what it does and what the customers think.

Ernest Stanbury (centre), sales director of Imvusa Technologies, with Brendon Crew and Jean-Yves Muller, co-owners of Cape Town's Caveau Wine Bar and Deli.

Wine and the creation of a winelist are often problematic issues for restaurant owners or hotel managers who may not have an overwhelming passion for the fruit of the vine. Chief amongst their concerns is often how to provide for those customers who, for whatever reason, want to purchase their wine by the glass.

One cannot really blame restaurants for predictable offerings of wine by the glass, but most customers do not understand that there is no margin in opening a bottle of Meerlust Rubicon (R795 per bottle on some restaurant winelists) for one glass, when most of the wine will ultimately have to be thrown away before it becomes vinegar.

The stakes for many restaurants have simply become too high for them to "cork-up and hope" and they are being aided by various wine preservation systems. Wine-lovers are demanding a wider variety of wines by the glass and are unlikely to be forgiving if what arrives in their glass is anything less than perfect.

The age-old problem for wine bars and restaurants is that, as soon as a cork is pulled, the battle between oxygen and wine begins. This results in the gradual conversion of alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar) and the role of any preserver must therefore be to halt or slow down this reaction in the bottle.

Clearly such methods are needed to address the perception that too many South African restaurants serve wine that it is of inferior quality, badly stored, served at the wrong temperature, oxidised and poured by people who haven't a clue what it is.

If global trends are anything to go by, then many of these problems can be partly or completely solved by preservation systems like the Le Verre de Vin (“glass of wine” in French), first launched in the UK 10 years ago and now available in South Africa.

Traditionally wine preservation systems have followed one of two methods. The first method is to create a barrier between the wine and oxygen (gas-based systems), while the second is to simply remove the oxygen from the bottle (vacuum-based systems). Gas-based systems displace oxygen in open bottles with argon or nitrogen while the vacuum-based variety sucks all the oxygen out, creating a vacuum before the wine starts to turn.

According to Ernest Stanbury, sales director of Imvusa Technologies, the local agent for the Le Verre de Vin system, international experience has shown that wine and champagne sales increase significantly, by volume and value, once the preservation system has been installed.

By way of an analogy, he compares the local coffee market of 15 years ago to the wine market of today. These days it is almost impossible to find a restaurant or hotel that doesn't offer cappuccinos, espressos and lattes in a variety of forms and it is worth noting that the equipment involved in producing these products costs much the same as the Le Verre de Vin.

Stanbury says that there was a "totally negative" response when an attempted launch was made into the South African market four years ago. However, he has been encouraged by the feedback he has received from the industry this time around.

"The top establishments we have spoken to all acknowledge that the global trend of serving premium wine-by-the-glass is upon us," he said. "They are very excited by the Le Verre de Vin wine preservation system because today's wine-drinking consumer is more inquisitive and demanding than ever before and is willing to trade-up to better quality wine-by-the-glass. Key to stimulating this demand is to be able to offer an enticing range of wine-by-the-glass, delivered fresh from the bottle."

The system is currently available at R25 000 excluding VAT and includes the preservation machine, the gas regulator for preserving champagne with C02, 10 wine stoppers and three champagne stoppers. The gas cylinder required can be hired from Afrox.

"A restaurant serving merely 40 units of wine by the glass per day would pay back their machine in six months," said Stanbury. "The business case becomes effective when catering establishments implement an innovative wine and champagne by-the-glass menu. A restaurant in Gauteng generated R20 000 in one month from their new wine-by-the-glass menu. They also measured their normal house wine sales and bottle sales. Neither of these diminished in any way."

The Le Verre de Vin: a low-maintenance and easy-to-use wine preservation system.

The Le Verre de Vin system was invented and launched in the UK in 1992 after two years of research and development by a team of engineers and wine professionals. The technology involved has won full patent status in all the major wine markets around the world. There are currently over 17 000 installations of the Le Verre de Vin in the UK, Europe and the USA.

To date it appears that this success is being replicated in South Africa with an impressive list of hotel and restaurant managers either in the process of considering a purchase or singing the praises of the product. Amongst its selling points are simplicity of use and easy accommodation, enabling even a small bar to offer still and sparkling wines and champagne by the glass.

Le Verre de Vin has even impressed the wine experts of Decanter, a British wine magazine, who named it the top overall wine preservation system. The magazine stated: "A vacuum system works well when a regular, optimum vacuum is produced on each use."
However, it questioned claims that any system is able to preserve wine for 21 days, finding that the quality of the wine being preserved begins to fall away after nine days. It concluded that some of the wines might have been drinkable after nine days, but that they certainly were not up to restaurant or wine bar standard.

While Fiona McDonald, editor of WINE, a sister publication to Hotel & Restaurant, sees the heightened local interest in wine preservation systems as a trade, rather than a consumer issue, she is nevertheless excited by the possibilities.

"WINE supports innovation which means the wine consumer has a broader selection of wine by the glass," she said. "I wish more pubs/restaurants and hotels would install systems such as this. When you go to a place like Caveau or Belthazar in the Waterfront and you see what it's possible to do - and how much you can offer the consumer - it's fantastic."

Jean-Yves Muller, co-owner of Cape Town's Caveau Wine Bar and Deli was one of the first in Cape Town to buy the machine.
"The wine bar phenomenon is growing rapidly internationally, but to offer a wide selection of good wines an effective wine preservation system is crucial," he said. "Thanks to the Le Verre de Vin we are now able to offer over 60 still and sparkling wines by-the-glass, with prices ranging from R14 to R60 per glass."

The Meat Company in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, was the first restaurant in Gauteng to purchase the Le Verre de Vin. Manager Nic Veringiro said: "There is a growing demand from our customers for a wide selection of premium wines-by-the-glass. The concept is new, but is catching on fast. By using the Le Verre de Vin we can now confidently offer our best still and sparkling wines by the glass. And we have no wastage at all."

Another convert is Kent Scheermeyer, the F&B manager of the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl who, after testing the machine, said: "This preservation system is fantastic, I will not even consider functioning without it in the future, we have to have it!"

Keywords: Glass, Preservation System, Wine, Wine Preservation System

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Increasingly, consumers with educated wine palates, are demanding a better quality and wider choice of wine-by-the-glass from the Hospitality Industry. Restaurants, hotels, and wine bars are looking for innovative ways to improve their offering to their customers whilst increasing turnover and profits. Imvusa Technologies sees an improved wine-by-the-glass offering as a huge opportunity to meet the needs of all three sectors of the wine market.